16 Things I Learned from My Dad: Basic Tenants of Life & Social

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So, if you’ve followed any of my blogs at all, you’d know that I can, at times, get a little sappy (or maybe a lotta sappy). Well, this blog is one of those times. How can you talk about Father’s Day without being a little mushy?

In any case, our fathers will always have a special place in our hearts. And that usually shines through in our work everyday. We may not like all of the characteristics we carry on from our daddy-o’s, but we have to admit that we’re thankful for some of them. And more than thankful for the lessons we’ve learned that help us as advertising professionals.

In that light, here are a few things I’ve learned from my dad:

  1. Be careful. Details are important and my dad taught me that a long, longgg time ago. When he took me on trips to the flea market, I was not allowed to touch anything. Take that back, when he took me most anywhere, I was not allowed to touch anything!!! If he was helping me with a project or craft, he always stressed taking my time – I can remember watching him as he cut the edges of a photo for literally 10 minutes. You better believe those edges were straight. In an age when everything is right now, it’s so easy to rush. But in the digital world that could mean a tweet with a huge grammatical error, or publishing the wrong version of a blog. So this tenant has been one of the most important to my own success.
  2. Never Lie. Well, it seems obvious. But it’s a basic one that my dad could NOT stand. He always would rather that I tell the truth about something I did, then lie. He always was truthful with his feedback to others and to his daughters. And he was truthful with himself. And in the advertising/PR/marketing world it can be so easy for a brand to fudge the truth just a bit about its product, or blow things out of proportion. But I’ve found, transparency and honesty are the things that make the best brands engaging and successful.
  3. Be a do-er. Now you may not all agree with this, but my dad is the ultimate busy body. He always has a list of things he wants to do, and he’s always doing some new hobby, whether it’s gardening, making hot sauce, drinking wine (yes that’s a hobby), fixing something, getting artsy, he’s ALWAYS doing something. Except of course when he’s asleep on the couch. I’d argue that there are times when you should just relax, but I know that I always feel more accomplished when I’m out and about in the world, taking a hike, writing a blog, even doing laundry. And that’s something I’m definitely a proponent of – there’s always something to do.
  4. Disconnect. Kind of counterintuitive given his busy-bodiness, but I have to say that I have never once seen my dad answering a work email or taking a work call when he’s with me. When he’s at my soccer game, he’s at my soccer game (and likely the loudest cheerer in the bunch…something I’m fond of now, but was not so fond of back then). When he walked through the door for dinner, he took a shower and he ate with us. There was no more work…at least no more actual work. In PR this one is a little harder to carry out because news never stops and neither does social media. But the basic principle of taking time to be in the moment and be present, is one that could help us all be that much more creative.
  5. Read the Newspaper. Okay, I admit that I don’t read the physical newspaper every day. Why would I when I have Twitter?! But my dad did. He’d come home and read the paper every night (usually falling asleep to it). I never really realized that this is something he did often until I sat down to write this blog. But his fondness of keeping up on the times trickled into my life and has become a large part of what I do on a daily basis. Social media is always changing. Journalism is changing as you read this. And if you’re not keeping your eye on the world’s broader context, you won’t keep up.
  6. Ask for Help. Almost embarrassingly so, my dad always stopped to ask for directions. I know, he debunked all of the stereotypes. He asked people what their favorite menu item was. He never hesitated to ask my sister or I to help him hold something while he fixed the car. This is something I carry with me everyday. Guess what, everyone has different experiences and different knowledge sets. Asking questions only fosters collaboration and innovation that never would have happened otherwise. So thanks dad, I always ask my coworkers for help or advice. It’s a way of life.
  7. Never get bangs. Pretty straightforward. No bangs allowed in the Wassum household. Why would you want something covering up your eyes?! Same is true in social. Open your eyes. Look around you. Listen to your customers. Be aware. If you’re not, someone else will be and they’ll be all the more relevant because of it.
  8. Turn the other cheek. It’s just too darn easy to retaliate, whether it be in your life or via a Twitter convo. But it never ends up the way you want it to. I learned that from my father, who never struck back with words or let someone else’s behavior affect his own.
  9. Never give up. I think it comes from his athletic background, but my dad never, ever let me give up. If I started something, I was going to finish it. From girl scouts to school to a swim meet. No matter what I was doing, he always taught to give as much as I could. In today’s digital world, it’s easy to look at a behemoth brand and think, “I’ll never be able to compete against them.” But it’s just not true. If you never give up, you can carve your own niche and become something great. What would have happened if Thomas Jefferson got discouraged? Or Picasso? Or Steve Jobs? All of the greatest innovations came from people who never gave up.
  10. Make a to-do list. I sort of alluded to this earlier, but I list everything. I even make most of my blogs into lists (16 things…). Why? Because my dad had list after list after list. My favorite was his chalkboard list of things he wanted to do around the house. I think there are some things still on that list from when I was in high school. But, he does cross things off from time to time. And it helps him remember all of the genius, crafty ideas he has. Now, I have google doc after google doc. I have a list of the lists I want to make (okay that’s an exaggeration). But my best ideas almost never come at a convenient time, so I keep lists in the Notes app on my iPhone. And to make my days more efficient, I create lists of the things I must accomplish the next day, every night before I leave. Sometimes I don’t need to look at it, but the act of just writing things down keeps me from ever dropping the ball.
  11. Embrace Diversity. Enough said.
  12. Get Smart. This one is hilarious to me. Before we could get an aquarium, we had to read a book about taking care of fish. Before we could get birds, we had to read a book about taking care of birds. Before I could get my driver’s license, I had to log 100 hours of driving time and show him I could change a tire. Before I did any craft project, in my dad would come asking “well did you read the directions?” “Did you read the book?” That was a mantra. Don’t start anything without getting smart and reading not just the instructions, but fully immersing yourself in the subject. This is almost second nature to me. We have to know everything about our clients. We have to be subject matter experts, industry experts and media savvy – how else can we help our clients tell their stories? So I always read the book. I always scan for industry trends. I always follow  influencers. And I have my dad to thank for learning that early, early on.
  13. Give to others. Another basic principle of life, but something that’s often overlooked. My dad was so good about giving of his time, talents and resources. Whether that be at work, in the community, with his family, etc. It’s something you can’t miss about him. And now it’s something I bring into my everyday. And it doesn’t mean donating money. It could just mean helping a coworker out. Or, as a brand, making sure to commit a percentage of what you or what you earn to some cause. It makes you feel good, and that stimulates your creativity and your exuberance in life. Something that can’t be missed by those around you.
  14. Recycle. And I’m talking a real commitment here. We lived pretty far out, where the recycling trucks didn’t go. So we hauled our recyclables 5 miles away and separated it into huge bins ourselves. Now, you might wonder what that has to do with social media. It’s simple. Things have several purposes and they shouldn’t just be cast aside after one use. And that tenant is true in content creation. Create content that can be re-used, re-invented, recycled. It’s more efficient for you and it’s more helpful for others. A good story is a good story, no matter how many times you tell it.
  15. Dance. My dad never misses a chance to live it up a bit, liven up the party and dance. He’s even got a signature dance, which I’ve gotten pretty good at replicating. And I think the real point here, is that he’s not too embarrassed to have a little fun. He never lets the status quo dictate how he’ll react. And the same is true in communications. You have to embrace your brand’s personality and stop taking yourself so seriously. In your press releases, in your tweets, in your internal communications, don’t be afraid to do something a little goofy or different, because the most essential part of building relationships and meaningful interactions, is being real. And you can’t be real if you’re stodgy or serious with every piece of communication.
  16. Enjoy a gin & tonic. Or a glass of wine. Or a cold beer. Or a root beer. Or a ginger ale. Just enjoy your beverages.

There are a ton of other things I learned from my dad. In fact, I deleted a few to keep this post under 2,000 words – yowza! Anyway, I’m always learning and I love my ‘did’.

Happy Father’s Day to all!

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